14

March

BJ Raji Signs 1-year, $4 million contract with Packers

B.J. Raji 2012

B.J. Raji

The Packers and Ted Thompson continue to resign their own guys (much to the dismay of Frank Schaub apparently), Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that defensive end/nose tackle BJ Raji has resigned with the team for a 1-year, $4 million contract; specifics of the deal have not been made public but this post will be updated to reflect incoming news.

 

Raji has largely been criticized for his lackluster play since teasing fans with his potential in early in his career and being dissatisfied playing in a 3-4 scheme where defensive linemen rarely get the accolades or attention of the 4-3 brethren.  The icing on the cake for fan scorn was walking away a multi-year deal that was supposed to pay him roughly $8 million yearly, naturally this is all just hearsay and the structure of the deal (i.e. the guaranteed portion) might have been poor but nevertheless, an abysmal season after betting on himself drew the ire of fans and media alike.

Free agency apparently was ice cold for Raji as no reports have surfaced of him visiting any other team and Raji has not been linked or to be of interest to any other team (there were some rumors linking Raji to Oakland and Kansas city, with obvious connections in the front offices).  Last reported news from Raji prior to his signing was that he was “mulling” over a 1-year contract offer from the Packers.  From the looks of things, Raji was forced to take a 1-year “prove it” contract with the Packers as no other suitors came calling.  Without knowing guaranteed money and incentive clauses attached to the deal, this looks like a pretty good signing for the Packers, who get an experienced defensive linemen who will be playing hard for his pay day (although why this didn’t help last season is a mystery) and when at his best can be a disruptive force in the middle.

The Packers have been reported to be looking at Raji only as a nose tackle (where he has had the most success), which likely means Ryan Pickett is now less likely to be resigned (although the Packers might still resign Pickett if the price is right), with Josh Boyd most likely as the backup nose tackle.

7

February

Josh Boyd 2013 Green Bay Packers Evaluation and Report Card

Packers DE Josh Boyd

1) Introduction: Could Josh Boyd be the next Mike Daniels? I don’t think Boyd will ever be the pass-rusher that Daniels is developing into, but he could be another late-round contributor on the defensive line if he builds on a promising finish to his rookie season.

2) Profile:

Josh Boyd

  • Age: 24
  • Born: 8/3/1989 in Philadelphia, MS
  • Height: 6’3″
  • Weight: 310
  • College: Mississippi St.
  • Rookie Year: 2013
  • NFL Experience: 1 year

Career Stats and more

3) Expectations coming into the season: There were rumblings that Boyd might not even make the team early, so expectations were low. I would’ve been shocked to see a fifth-round pick get the axe so early. Next year is the big one for Boyd. Expectations will be higher and we’ll find out if he can play or not.

4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Boyd stuck around and hardly played until the final quarter of the season. Once he made it on the field, he played better than B.J. Raji. The game seemed too fast for Boyd in the preseason, and that obviously led to him rarely getting any opportunities until after Johnny Jolly went down.

5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Boyd looked fairly nimble for a 300-plus pound guy. Now someone needs to teach him how to use his girth to his advantage and fight more with his hands. I’m not saying that Boyd replaced what Jolly brought to the team, but he at least showed that he can be disruptive like Jolly was. Oh, and Boyd got more playing time at the end of the season than prized first-rounder Datone Jones. That says good things about Boyd’s future, and not so good things about Jones’ future.

6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Boyd swallowed up Frank Gore behind the line on one running play. He wasn’t quick enough to play any type of role in containing Collin Kaepernick, but against the slower-footed Gore, Boyd was able to fill space and do his job.

Season Report Card:

(C-) Level of expectations met during the season

(D) Contributions to team’s overall success.

(C) Contributions to team during the playoffs

Overall Grade:  D+

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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23

August

Pre Season Week 3 – Packers vs. Seahawks: Keys to the Game

Packers vs Seahawks

Wilson will provide the Packers with their first test with a mobile quarterback in 2013

Please forgive my hiatus for last week’s Green Bay Packers vs. St. Louis Rams contest.  I was temporarily brainwashed to think that my post would write itself.  But I digress. . .

This week’s pre season game has the Seattle Seahawks visiting Lambeau Field to face the Packers on Friday.  As John Rehor of Packers Talk has said, this is not a rematch of last year’s Monday Night Football debacle.  Dubbed the “Fail Mary” game, it incited a lot of controversy and left many Packers fans wanting vengeance against both the man (the Seahawks) and the machine (Roger Gooddell and the NFL).  But alas, as John said, it’s not a rematch.  It’s just a pre season game.

Still, week three of the NFL pre season has long been considered a dress rehearsal for the upcoming season and the starting units typically see their longest stint on the field during this game.  It’s more of a true litmus test to see how a team looks and how prepared they are for the upcoming regular season.  While there may be some chatter from the players and media, the Packers need to drown that out and focus.

During the offseason, the Seahawks got busy in acquiring more pieces to complete their team and get even better than last year when they came within inches and seconds of advancing to the NFC Championship game.  They traded a first round draft pick for receiver Percy Harvin to give quarterback Russell Wilson another solid target.  Harvin promptly injured his hip and had to have surgery, which will prevent his Seattle debut until some time in November, if at all.  Seattle also brought in former Lions defensive end Cliff Avril to help with their pass rush and former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield to add some experience to their defensive backfield.

Seattle comes into this season as not only a favorite to win the NFC West, but they are also considered by many to be front runners for the NFC and the Super Bowl.  This should provide a solid test for the Packers, who also figure to be in the mix for a deep playoff run.  Let’s drill down on the keys for the Packers in this week’s game and also some of the position battles that are still in full swing.

19

August

Revisiting My 10 Top Training Camp Topics for the Packers

Eddie Lacy may not get the first carry of the season, but he's the "starter" in my eyes.

Eddie Lacy may not get the first carry of the season, but he’s the “starter” in my eyes.

About three weeks into camp and halfway through the NFL preseason, many of the Packers’ key question marks are starting to take shape.

Some of such unknowns have since seen new faces (Vince Young) enter the conversation, while other questions (Jermichael Finley) are still completely up in the air.

Prior to training camp, we put ten Packers training-camp topics under the microscope for further review. Now two games into the preseason, it’s time to revisit some of these questions and predictions.

1. Who will be the Packers’ opening-day starter at running back?

Answer: Eddie Lacy, and I feel the same. Kinda.

The Packers clearly didn’t want to (literally) hand the job to a rookie running back without some competition; the team routinely gave veterans Alex Green and James Starks run with the No. 1 offense early in the offseason.

But after the “fat” Eddie Lacy thing blew over, the rookie quickly separated himself from the pack at the position. Coach McCarthy has been effusive in his praise of DuJuan Harris, who returned to practice this week, but if “Fat” is healthy, he’s going to get at least a share of the workload.

Fat was exceptional in his preseason debut against the St. Louis Rams, racking up 51 total yards on nine touches. He broke tackle after tackle, picked up the blitz and caught the ball out of the backfield. It was certainly an impressive showing for the rookie.

But if Harris and Lacy are both available on opening day, I really think both players will get a share of the load. Harris played well against the 49ers in the playoffs, but the Packers abandoned the running game in the second half.

So, in this case, the “starter” label may be a bit subjective. It could be a “starter and closer” or “thunder and lightning”-kinda situation.

2. How many defensive linemen will the Packers keep?

Answer: Six. Now, I think they’ll keep seven, including Mike Neal.

I was cautiously optimistic and mildly skeptical about the Neal-at-outside linebacker thing, but it looks like it’s working so far. Injured second-year defensive end Jerel Worthy told me and Cheesehead TV’s Zach Kruse to “look out” for Neal in his new role, and halfway through the preseason, he certainly looks like one of the team’s best pass rushers.

23

July

Ten Packers Training Camp Topics: #2 — Defensive Line Depth

Packers first-round pick Datone Jones will be asked to play a big role as a rookie. Is he ready to be a starter?

Packers first-round pick Datone Jones will be asked to play a big role as a rookie. Is he ready to be a starter?

When the Green Bay Packers took the field against the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, they did so with just five defensive linemen: B.J. Raji, Mike Daniels, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson and Mike Neal.

This offseason, the Packers have a mess of defensive linemen, competing for six or seven roster spots. Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Daniels, Neal and Jerel Worthy return to the team this year, along new competition from 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones, fifth-round pick Josh Boyd and Johnny Jolly.

With nine defensive linemen competing for spots on the 53-man roster, it’s a foregone conclusion that some players will be let go.

Last year, the Packers kept six defensive linemen: Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Worthy, Daniels and Phillip Merling. Merling only played in three regular-season games, as Neal was forced to serve a four-game suspension to start the season.

The Packers may very well have a similar situation this offseason with Worthy. Coming off a torn ACL suffered in Week 16 of last season, Worthy seems like a candidate to begin the season on the PUP list. If that’s the case, it seems likely that the Packers would, again, keep six linemen before making a decision on who is let go once Worthy returns.

Throughout OTAs, the Packers wanted to get a look at Neal at outside linebacker. And earlier this month on Packers Central, hosted by Zach Kruse and me, Worthy said there’s reason to be excited about Neal standing up.

“All I can say about Mike Neal moving to outside linebacker is look out,” Worthy said. “That’s all I can say. There’s about to be some hell to pay for whoever has to deal with him.”

Whether Neal plays as a true outside linebacker or as an interior pass rusher, it’s clear the team views him as one of its most talented pass rushers. And towards the end of the season, Neal may have been the team’s second-most efficient pass rusher after Clay Matthews.

With a deeper group of defensive linemen this season, players who specialize in the pass-rush department may be able to focus on that more than in years past. Raji and Pickett will assume two starting spots, and the third spot will likely come down to Jones or Wilson.

28

April

Green Bay Packers Final 2013 Draft Board

Packers GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy completed their eight draft together this weekend

Packers GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy completed their eight draft together this weekend

The 2013 NFL Draft is in the books which means the Green Bay Packers have made all of their selections and we know who will be joining the team in training camp come late July.  Our team at ALLGBP.com has done a fantastic job in breaking down each of these players and be sure to check out each and get to know your newest Packer players!

Let’s take a look at this year’s full slate of draft picks:

Round 1

26th, 26th overall – Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

Many expected this pick if the Packers were staying put in round one.  Many say Jones was a great value at 26th overall and should start right away.  Helps solidify a position of need.

Round 2

29th, 61st overall (from 49ers) – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

After several draft analysts had Lacy going to the Packers in round one and even before their pick, Green Bay had to be shocked to see him fall into their laps in round two.  Touted by many as the best running back in this year’s class, Lacy was the fourth back taken after Giovani Bernard (Bengals), Le’Veon Bell (Steelers) and Montee Ball (Broncos).  Clearly the Packers wanted Lacy and he will make an immediate impact to a running game that has lacked punch for the past three seasons.

Round 4

12th, 109th overall (from Saints through Dolphins) – David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado

After trading down a few spots in the fourth round, Thompson opted to add some depth to the Packers offensive line.  Bakhtiari brings all 6’4″, 300 lbs with him to Green Bay and should be given an opportunity to battle with Derek Sherrod (if healthy) and become a starting tackle opposite Bryan Bulaga.  He is versatile, however, and can also play at the guard spot.

25th, 122nd overall – J.C. Tretter, OT, Cornell

Tretter was a bit of a surprise pick here, at least to me.  Just 13 picks after selecting Bakhtiari, the Packers drafted another offensive tackle.  A further glace at Tretter shows that he is more likely to translate in the NFL as a guard or possibly even center.  That versatility is what Packers GM Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy like in a lineman.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been sacked more times than any other quarterback since 2008.  Shoring up the offensive front was clearly a priority for Thompson.

27

April

Packers 2013 NFL Draft: Day 3 Grade and Analysis

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin

Entering the final day of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers were slated to make ten selections. But when it was all said and done, the Packers added only nine players to the team.

Their first two selections of the day were offensive linemen David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter.

Bakhtiari was a three-year starter at Colorado, and I had a late-second to early-third round grade on him entering the draft. He was a tackle at the college level but will probably play guard at the NFL level. The Packers drafted Bakhtiari with pick No. 109 in the fourth round.

Tretter started at left tackle the past two seasons at Cornell. He was a unanimous All-Ivy League First Team selection as a senior after beginning his college career as a tight end. He was a high school quarterback. With the Packers, Tretter will likely play on the interior of the offensive line.

Later in round four, Ted Thompson continued his trading ways by moving up for UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin.

Many scouts thought Franklin would be a second-round pick, and some even had Franklin and Eddie Lacy as the top two players at the position. My final rankings had Franklin as the No. 2 back in the draft, just ahead of Lacy and behind Giovani Bernard who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals at the top of the second round.

It was my belief that Franklin would be a better fit for the Packers offense than Lacy. But now that the Packers have both young backs, the running game should be vastly improved in 2013.

After making UCLA defensive end Datone Jones their first selection of the draft, the Packers went with four straight offensive players: two linemen and two running backs.

But in the fifth and sixth round, the Packers went back to the defensive side of the ball by selecting Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde, Mississippi State defensive end Josh Boyd and Illinois State outside linebacker Nate Palmer.

Hyde faces an uphill battle to earn regular playing time at cornerback, perhaps the Packers’ deepest position, but his versatility and ability to play special teams could help him crack the 53-man roster. Boyd will be a part of the team’s defensive line competition come training camp. Palmer started his college career at Illinois before transferring to Illinois State; he racked up 17 sacks his past two seasons at Illinois State and led the country in quarterback hits in 2012.